While recently Norway has delivered quite a few nice scary films [Rovdyr (Manhunt), Fritt Vilt 1&2 (Cold Prey 1&2)], for those interested in old films it’s not common to find one specially dated back 1958.
The lake of the dead (English translation) is based on a book by André Bjerke, that even acted in the film in a main role: the one of a mystery writer. Kåre Bergstrøm directed it.
A group of friends is travelling to a remote mountain location. They are going to have few days off, and will be visiting one of them already there since a while. The guy’s sister is worried by the way; they are twin brother and sister, and there’s a strong bond between them. She tells about few things that occurred before: while serving her tea she broke a cup, it was like something suddenly hit her. Her brother then showed up and he just had a car accident. She is in a weird mood these days, not hearing from him since he left. She’s worried something happened.
The place is also related to an old legend. A guy living in the same cabin before, was in love with his own sister and when he found out she had a lover, he has killed her, her lover and committed suicide drowning in the nearby lake. The peasants keep telling that he’s still haunting the place and once a year it’s possible to hear the ghost screaming for blood and revenge; while few people has disappeared from time to time, never to be found in the bottomless still waters of the sinister pond.
Once at the cabin in the woods, the group finds no trace of his friend. Maybe he’s gone hunting or maybe there’s something wrong with the beautiful but eerie atmosphere that surrounds the lakeshore.
This is a classic ghost story with a few nice twists that I’m not going to spoil. It would seem outdated to a modern audience, asking for a bloody body count; but it’s a well shot and creepy at times supernatural mystery tale that will please oldies’ fans with its authenticity and ingenuity. While a little bit stagey in the execution with few, but very nice, camera movements; the movie has a genuine approach to the subject and a good cast of performers.
The movie is a little bit talky at times, clearly showing its literary origin. It’s a psychological study on a deranged mind mashed up with uncanny elements and the typical police procedure of investigation, so common in 50’s films.
The director and the cinematographer opted for a day for night approach in all the night time scenes; maybe because of the budget and the use of a real location, with the subsequent large use of natural light, or because of the optical limits of the camera. The movie has been shot in AgaScope, an anamorphic process, that like many others in those days required a fair amount of light to get the scenes properly impressed on the film stock.
But instead to be a limit, these day for night scenes, generate a sense of abstraction that fairly serve to the purpose to create the unsettling mood the story requires.
It’s very interesting though, that the movie has so much in common with some Japanese horror films of the same period. The ghostly elements really are very similar to the ones to be found in Nobuo Nakagawa’s movies for instance, and many other Kwaidan eiga of late 50's early 60's like the Shin Toho productions.
This is a little film; it’s not a masterpiece and it fails in some elements of story telling; the mix of genres it’s not always perfectly executed, and the use of pretending to be funny bits of dialogue doesn’t help. But has few moments of genuine fright, and it’s a chance to approach old Norwegian genre films, rarely seen out of their native land.
The DVD is part of the Norske Klassikere series of Nordisk Film production. The original materials used were in good shape, with some signs of wear and vertical lines mostly in the main titles. The movie has been digitally restored, and while some DVNR has been applied there are some dirts and specks from time to time but nothing that could be annoying to the viewer.
The movie featuring a scope aspect ratio, it’s 16X9 enhanced: the cover states the ratio to be 2.40:1, but it’s 2.55:1 instead.
The B/W lensing is well reproduced as is the original mono audio. The DVD is English friendly and can be purchased here. This online store it’s completely reliable and they’ll help you to get through the order process that it’s in Norwegian; I strongly recommend to write them, they’ll answer soon and in English.
Film mass is ended you may go in peace